Woman Develops 'Black Hairy Tongue' After Car Crash: What Caused It?


Why did a woman’s tongue turn black and furry-looking after she experienced a car crash? The answer is not as scary as it seems.

Mysterious Tongue Discoloration

A 55-year-old woman was taken to the hospital after she sustained serious crash injuries to both legs as a result of a car crash. She soon developed an infection in her legs and doctors treated it with two antibiotics, one in IV form and the other to be taken orally.

However, within a week after starting the treatment, the woman reported experiencing nausea and having a bad taste in her mouth. More alarming was the black discoloration of her tongue, making it appear dark and hairy.

Doctors diagnosed her with a condition called “black hairy tongue,” which they suspect resulted from her taking the minocycline oral antibiotic. As a result, doctors immediately stopped the minocycline treatment and replaced it with an alternative antibiotic, and they also advised the patient to practice proper oral hygiene. Within four weeks, her tongue returned to its normal color.

The patient’s case of black hairy tongue was reported in a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Black Hairy Tongue

Black hairy tongue is a harmless and temporary condition that, as the name suggests, gives the tongue a black and fuzzy appearance. Although it is quite an alarming sight, the hairy appearance is often caused by the build-up of dead skin cells on the surface of the tongue, while the discoloration is caused by the collection of debris, bacteria, and other organisms on the papillae.

It is usually painless and does not lead to other health problems, and may be resolved by practicing good oral hygiene as well as by resolving the main cause of the condition. While these conditions may not always be specifically determined, some possible causes include poor oral hygiene, excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, dry mouth, excessive consumption of coffee or black tea, antibiotic use, consuming a soft diet, and regularly using mouthwash with oxidizing agents such as peroxide.

Apart from the obvious discoloration and hairy appearance of the tongue, people with black hairy tongue may experience altered or metallic taste in the mouth, halitosis or bad breath, and a gagging or tickling sensation if the papillae growth is excessive.

As mentioned, black hairy tongue may be resolved by treating the cause of the condition and by practicing good oral hygiene, but patients must go to the doctor if they are concerned about the appearance of their tongue, and if the condition continues even after practicing good oral hygiene and brushing the teeth and tongue twice a day.

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